It took roughly 10 minutes. Not long enough to really have a full experience but short enough to say I've done it. I'm talking about flying in a helicopter. This may come as a surprise to you but in all my dozen years as a reporter I've never really come across a time when I had to be on one. This "first" of mine happened when I went to Brittany in France to do a story on investing in private islands. We got to the airport and flew the short distance to Ile de Fort Bloque. It was fun, exciting, and had that feel of importance. My guide to the private island exclaimed it was utterly incomprehensible that I had never flown in a helicopter before. Truth is, I had never really thought about it before. What it did make me think, though, because of my job as host of Art of Life, I've had some pretty amazing experiences that I hope when I'm 85 I'd be able to tell my grandkids what their grandma got up to when she was young.
Last year I hopped on a World War II Spitfire. I was doing a story on how the luxury watch company IWC lures celebrity clientele (such as Boris Becker) and spokespeople to support their wares. It was a weekend in the English countryside and part of the theatrics involved flying in this classic fighter aircraft. The pilot of this two-seater plane was determined to show me what his baby could do. And he did. The turns, the dips, and the climbs left me feeling green and I'm convinced my internal balance has been off since then. Nevertheless, I still get looks of envy from airplane and history buffs whenever I bring up my little jaunt in this classic piece of aviation.
Imagine learning how to drive like a Formula 1 driver. Yep, F1 driver David Coulthard offered Art of Life his expertise on how to drive like a race car driver. Exciting right? Not for me. Why? Well folks, manual transmission, standard, stick-shift, whatever you call it, I don't know how to drive it. That's right, yours truly can only drive an automatic transmission car. Which means most sports cars are off-limits to me. So while I almost had that opportunity it had to be deferred to a colleague. Determined not to forego a hair-raising experience such as driving like a speed demon I learned how to drive the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti instead. It may not be the same (and David Coulthard wasn't my teacher) but it was a snazzy sports car to me and the folks at Ferrari were very patient with me. Fitted with a six-speed mechanical gearbox as well as the Formula 1-style paddle shifts meant even I could drive this smooth-mobile without having to worry about my inability to coordinate the clutch with the gear-shift. The sheer speed, noise of the engine roaring, and knowing my brother -- who is a sports car fanatic -- is envious and in awe are reasons enough for this experience to be a memorable one for me. FYI, I have tried learning how to drive a stick-shift, but alas it didn't stick.
These are just a few experiences that I've been fortunate enough to enjoy. Going through my list I can check off my first flight in a private jet, my first sip of Cristal Champagne (which if I'm honest, I really didn't like), my first stay on a yacht courtesy of designer Alberta Ferretti who took us along the coast of Italy. I can also tick off reporting from the Oscars, trying on diamonds worth millions of dollars on a yacht in Monaco during the Grand Prix (while the loud race took place just outside), jet-skiing on a frozen lake in northwestern Canada, and of course I can't forget playing elephant polo in Rajasthan, India.
While all these experiences have been work-related they are experiences I probably wouldn't come across in my every day life. It certainly makes me thankful. I'm looking forward to many, many more memorable moments.